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Subject: ‘Anarchy’

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Retribution quickly followed the Paris Commune’s collapse

Posted in Anarchy, Historical articles, History, Revolution, War on Thursday, 20 February 2014

This edited article about France first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 559 published on 30 September 1972.

Execution of Communards,  picture, image, illustration
There were plenty of volunteers to shoot down people of the Commune after their defeat by C L Doughty

The guns had fallen silent. The 137 day siege of Paris was over and France’s humiliation at the hands of Prussia was complete. The Parisians had fought valiantly, but valour was not enough against the armed might of the Prussians and the incompetence of France’s own leaders.

The siege, which ended on January 28, 1871, had been a terrible one. The previous year, the wily Prussian Chancellor, Bismarck, who had made his country the most powerful of all German states – for Germany was not yet a nation – had tricked the foolish French Emperor, Napoleon III, into declaring war. Two months later, the French had been crushed at Sedan, Napoleon had been captured, and the victorious Prussians were advancing on Paris.

The city was surrounded in September, and Parisians were dying of starvation by November, a month before heavy shelling of the city began. Rations were pitiful. Horsemeat was an exciting luxury, with rats as the main dish, though the rich, for a time at least, dined off camels, elephants and other zoo animals.

The civil and military leaders of Paris varied from inefficient to disgraceful, but the courage of the ordinary people was superb. “Let them cut our rations,” cried one starving housewife. “We’re ready for anything, but our leaders must never surrender.”

Yet surrender they did, and the final humiliation – on top of a peace treaty which involved loss of French territory, and a colossal sum of money to be paid to the victors – was that German troops were to make a token occupation of Paris for two days.

The working people of Paris went mad with rage. Lied to by their leaders throughout the siege, they had endured seeing their city surrender, despite the fact that the 300,000 strong National Guard, a civilian force, had never really seen action. They now watched what one leader called the “decent people” leave Paris for the country, then heard that French leaders outside Paris were threatening to bring back the discredited monarchy, though this did not happen. Worse still, a vicious anti-working class law was brought in demanding that all pre-siege debts be paid within 48 hours, this at a moment when Parisians were bankrupt as well as starving.

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The controversial execution of two Italian anarchists in America

Posted in America, Anarchy, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Law, Politics on Tuesday, 14 January 2014

This edited article about American justice first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 510 published on 23 October 1971.

No one noticed the two tall swarthy Italian-looking men who had been loitering outside a shoe factory in South Braintree, a small industrial town near Boston, Massachusetts. They had a black Buick car which was parked opposite the gates of the factory, and from the suspicious bulges beneath the men’s jackets it seemed as if they were concealing some kind of cudgels.

Curiously enough, no one bothered to challenge the men, or ask them what they were doing near the factory on the very day that $16,000 was being taken from there to the shoe company’s main works, some four hundred yards away.

At precisely 3 p.m. on 15th April, 1920, two guards left the building carrying metal boxes containing the firm’s pay packets for the week. The two foreigners were then leaning over a fence, as though idly passing away the time. Suddenly, as the guards approached them, the loiterers pulled guns from their belts and fired at the oncoming men.

One of the guards, named Berardelli, fell dead at the feet of the bandits. The other employee, Frederick Parminter, the shoe company paymaster, made a run for it. Two more shots were fired and he dropped to the ground, mortally wounded.

Within seconds the gunmen had snatched the money boxes, rushed with them to the waiting car, and speeded off across some railway tracks in the general direction of Boston. A few days later the Buick was found abandoned in some outlying woods, and the search for the dark-skinned men – one of whom sported a long drooping moustache – was intensified.

The Massachusetts State Police were already investigating a similar hold-up the previous December, and their enquiries took them to the Italian communities in the towns scattered around Boston. A short while later they accosted two men – Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Banzetti – while they were riding on a streetcar.

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The Wall Street Crash ushered in the Great Depression

Posted in America, Anarchy, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Labour Party, Politics on Tuesday, 10 December 2013

This edited article about the Depression first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 486 published on 8 May 1971.

Unemployed marchers, picture, image, illustration
Unemployed British marchers during the Depression

Wall Street’s Stock Exchange where grave-faced men of business dealt in millions every day was like a madhouse. Telephones shrilled, messengers rushed in and out, ticker tapes chattered – all unheeded. The share prices they showed were hopelessly out of date before they received them. Millions were being lost every minute. The crowd groaned in despair. Dupont, one of the greatest American companies was named. Its value had dropped again. It was now half yesterday’s. Worse, Trans America had lost 840 million dollars and stopped trading. Other names told the same story. The brokers were stunned!

The hypnotised trance lasted only a moment; then the crowd broke. Hundreds of men scurried hither and thither. Some to a telephone to pass on the news, some to seek buyers, others believing the indicator board was way behind, sought more information. Pandemonium resumed. Others did nothing. They either sat, or walked slowly like zombies, unable to believe their fortunes of a month before had vanished, as if stolen. That day, 29th October, 1929, a number of them committed suicide. They were ruined, everything they had worked for had gone in the worst financial disaster of the century, the Wall Street Crash, when the American business world ran out of money and stopped.

The crash reverberated around the world. Its impact no longer measured in terms of money lost but in jobs lost. Without buyers for their goods, manufacturers went bankrupt, or nearly so, and could no longer pay wages. Millions were unemployed. Economists call this kind of drop in trade a depression, but this downturn lasted so long and was so bad it came to be called the Great Depression or Slump.

It was a few months before it had an effect on Britain. When it did it was as disastrous as elsewhere. Nine months after the bank crash in New York, unemployment here doubled to two million. It crept up to two and a half million by December, 1930. In Germany the effect was far worse. In 1933, the darkest year of the whole grim business, there were 6 million out of work.

Irresponsibility is one word that could well describe the cause of the Wall Street crash. Because America’s economy was booming after the First World War, even foreigners were eager to invest their money in anything American. To oblige them, speculators began setting up companies that on paper were worth millions. An example might be real estate. Huge office blocks were built to be let at enormous profits – if the boom continued. When it didn’t the owners were left with no money and a brick and mortar pile thousands of miles away.

Before the crash investing on the Exchange had become as common as saving through a bank. All over America, ordinary people had begun to invest, and while prices were high they were happy. But when one of the regular downturns in trade occurred, thousands of these amateur investors were frightened. They panicked and sold for what they could get. The effect snowballed and the slide in prices began.

The wave of selling spread further and faster till it careered on out of control. The smash, when it came, wiped out savings as well as fortunes.

America’s economy and that of the rest of the world slowly picked up over the next few years. New industries such as cars and electrical goods proved their worth and money eventually began to circulate between trading nations again.

Joseph Conrad wrote the first and greatest novel about terrorism

Posted in Anarchy, English Literature, Espionage, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, News on Tuesday, 17 September 2013

This edited article about Joseph Conrad originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 403 published on 4 October 1969.

Joseph Conrad, picture, image, illustration
Joseph Conrad by Walter Tittle

No one paid any attention to the inoffensive-looking French tailor who was sauntering through the grounds of Greenwich Park in south-east London. For Martial Bourdin seemed no different to anyone else, who was out enjoying a stroll in the crisp, February air.

But in his pocket was a bottle containing enough explosive to blow up the famed Greenwich Observatory. For as well as being a hard-working tailor, Bourdin was also an anarchist intent on overthrowing the British Government and establishing the rule of the people.

By destroying the Observatory, he would prevent the standard time from being telegraphed to all parts of the United Kingdom, so causing chaos and disruption. As Bourdin neared the walls of the Observatory, he lost his air of tranquillity. His movements became tense and jerky. He began to take the bottle from his pocket, and as he did so he stumbled over something in his path. He fell heavily to the ground with the bottle still in his hand. The bomb exploded immediately – killing Bourdin, but leaving the Observatory undamaged.

The story was fully reported in the newspapers, but aroused little interest at a time when London was beset by a whole series of bomb outrages. Twelve years later, however, in 1906, the writer, Joseph Conrad, used the incident as the basis for his exciting spy novel, The Secret Agent.

Conrad, who was born in the Ukraine of Polish parents in 1857, is one of the most extraordinary of “English” authors. For, despite his nationality, he considered himself to be as English as anyone born between the south coast and the border of Scotland. At the age of 15 he resolved to become a British seaman.

He joined the crew of the Mavis, and first set foot on English soil at Lowestoft in 1878. “I did not know six words of the language,” he confessed later. He continued his sea-going career and eight years later he obtained his master mariner’s ticket and became a naturalised British subject.

In The Secret Agent Conrad’s tale of anarchy centres around Adolph Verloc, a seemingly respectable Soho shop-keeper, who uses Stevie, his simple-minded brother-in-law, to unwittingly carry a time-bomb to Greenwich Observatory. This is the most dramatic part of the book, and you are forced to read on to discover whether or not Stevie suffers the same fate as his real-life counterpart, Martial Bourdin.

While he was working on the novel, Conrad became so obsessed with the lives of the terrorists that he felt as if he were an anarchist himself. “Then,” he stated, “a visitor from America informed me that all sorts of revolutionary refugees in New York would have it that the book was written by somebody who knew a lot about them. This seemed to me a very high compliment.”

The C15 German shepherd Hans Bohm caused mass religious hysteria

Posted in Anarchy, Bible, Historical articles, History, Religion on Thursday, 23 February 2012

This edited article about prophets originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 650 published on 29 June 1974.

Hans Bohm, picture, image, illustration

Hans Bohm, the shepherd, spoke of his Marian vision and the coming end of the world

At the first beat of a drum, the noise in the tavern died away. There was silence as the musicians began playing a lilting air. The crowd recognised it at once; they were all shepherd-folk and had whistled or hummed it to their sheep on the hillsides. Soon they were joining in, beating time on the tables with their mugs. They recognised the musician, too. He was a shepherd who came down from the hills each evening to play for a few pence in the tavern of the village of Niklashausen. His name was Hans Bohm. Soon he was to be called the saviour of mankind and the herald of the end of the world.

It was in 1474. Europe had been ravaged by wars, dynastic and religious, and the people were exhausted. They often sought release in fantasies. A recurrent belief was that so much war and devastation must have a purpose: must herald the Millenium, the destruction of the old, corrupt world and the creation of a new. In remote cells, men pored over parchments to discover when the event might happen. Two Bohemians argued that 1467 would be the year; but when it passed without incident, no one’s faith was in any way diminished – it was simply assumed that they had got their sums wrong.

In the states of Germany, the feeling that the end of the world was approaching was especially strong. The people there had been heavily taxed to pay for their emperor’s armies and the armies themselves had carried off what the tax-gatherers had left. In no state was the atmosphere more apprehensive than in Wurzburg, which was governed by a powerful Prince-Bishop. And it was to his castle that rumours came of strange events in the village of Niklashausen. People spoke of a young shepherd who played the drum, who had declared that the world was to be destroyed and – here the Prince-Bishop choked in fury – who was laying the blame for it all on princes and bishops.

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The best pictures of the Gordon Riots

Posted in Anarchy, Best pictures, History, London, Religion on Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The best pictures of the anti-Catholic riots of 1780 known as the Gordon Riots show the army shooting looters and the mob setting buildings alight. The first picture of the Gordon Riots depicts the army shooting a group of looters.

Gordon Riots, picture, image, illustration

The army takes aim and fires at the looters during the Gordon Riots, by C L Doughty

The second picture of the Gordon Riots shows the mob setting the King’s Bench Prison on fire in St George’s Fields.

Gordon Riots, picture, image, illustration

The mob destroying and setting fire to the King’s Bench Prison and House of Correction in St George’s Fields

The third picture of the Gordon Riots shows Lord George Gordon addressing the mob in St George’s Fields.

Gordon Riots, picture, image, illustration

Lord George Gordon addressing the mob in St George’s Fields

Many more pictures relating to the Gordon Riots can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.